High Schoolers Tackle The Great Gatsby With Classical Music

photo_16696_0This week I had the amazing opportunity to visit a high school English class and do a combined literary and musical activity with them.  They had recently finished reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” for class, so I brought in a piece for them to explore in relation to that book.

The piece I chose to play was the first movement of Ligeti’s Cello Sonata (Dialogo).  Before I played it, we made a list on the board of many of the characters from the book.  Then I simply told the students to imagine the music as a sort of movie score as they listened–who might the characters be? What might they be doing?

After playing the music all the way through  (it’s about 4 minutes long), I asked them for reactions.  It started out a little slow, but then things really got rolling.  One student broke the ice by saying he imagined the first chords to be the green light pulsing at the end of Daisy’s dock and that what followed was Gatsby watching that light and thinking about her.  Other students actually said they had the same idea.

Here are some other characters and events some of the students imagined:

  1. Gatsby asking Nick to swim in his pool followed by Gatsby’s death and Nick’s reaction to it all at the funeral.
  2. Wilson finding out about Gatsby’s supposed hand in his wife’s death and preparing the gun that would kill him.
  3. Gatsby and Daisy meeting for the first time at Nick’s house.
  4. Daisy reading Gatsby’s letter after it was too late to take him back.

It was really amazing to hear all of their creative ideas! We barely scratched the surface of this 4 minute piece in the 30 minutes I had with them.

One question I only somewhat rhetorically asked them was how people could imagine such different things in Continue reading

If The Big Bang Theory Characters Were Literary Characters

Ever wonder which literary character is most like your favorite Big Bang Theory character? Wonder no more.

Sheldon = Sherlock Holmes

Both of these guys are crazy smart and don’t hesitate to make others aware of that fact. While Sherlock uses his powers to solve crimes, Sheldon has devoted his life to science. Of course, Sheldon probably couldn’t solve crimes even if he wanted to because of how high-maintenance he is. After all, I would imagine that being a germophobe isn’t exactly an advantage if you work around crime scenes. Then again, his OCD would keep him searching until the mystery was solved.

Obviously there are significant differences between the two. If I had to choose which one I’d rather hang out with, it would be Sherlock, though he definitely has his quirks, too. Sorry, Sheldon.

Penny = Anna Karenina 
Continue reading

Top 3 Funniest Quotes From The Importance of Being Earnest

9781593080594_p0_v4_s192x300-1

(Plus a comparison to a Flight of the Conchords song…)

1. “How you can sit there, calmly eating muffins when we are in this horrible trouble, I can’t make out. You seem to me to be perfectly heartless.”

“Well, I can’t eat muffins in an agitated manner. The butter would probably get on my cuffs. One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them.”

“I say it’s perfectly heartless your eating muffins at all, under the circumstances.”

2. “You have filled my tea with lumps of sugar, and though I asked most distinctly for bread and butter, you have given me cake. I am known for the gentleness of my disposition, and the extraordinary sweetness of my nature, but I warn you, Miss Cardew, you may go too far.”

3. “Ever since I met you I have admired you more than any girl…I have ever met since…I met you.”

(This last quote is a lot like a line in the hilarious song, “Jenny,” by Flight of the Conchords:

“I meant it was nice to meet you that time that I met you…When was it that we met that time that I met you when I met you?”)

Classical Music Stories: Frankenstein

51HtbmK6dwL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_

Prelude in G sharp minor

Sergei Rachmaninoff

Walton is approaching the mysterious, unknown North Pole. He has hopeful expectations of what he will find there.

As he continues to approach, there is a real sense of fate or foreshadowing…but Walton himself is engaged in optimistic hope. His daydreams become mixed with the fate theme of the beginning.

But now, Walton’s longing grows, even as he discovers nature and fate’s refusal to fulfill his wishes (descending lines). This leads to his growing fury.

At the climax of the piece, his fate is revealed Continue reading

Classical Music Stories: Pride and Prejudice

ba8362fa6919b927_landing

Waltz in E-Flat Major, Op. 18 “Grande valse brillante”

Frédéric Chopin

It is the opening of the Lucas’s ball. Everyone is talking about the rich newcomer and his friend.

We see Jane as she genuinely admires Mr. Bingley: a beautiful, kind, and agreeable girl, though Mr. Darcy’s pride is a bit of a dent in the overall mood.

The music becomes creeping and mysterious as Mrs. Bennett sees Jane and Mr. Bingley together. We keep alternating between Jane and Bingley’s joyful purity and Mrs. Bennett’s clueless Continue reading

Some Thoughts On Books From Various Authors — Consilient Interest

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.” John Green “It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be […]

via Some Thoughts On Books From Various Authors — Consilient Interest